There’s a lot of
ink ones and zeros being spilt on this week’s 50-year anniversary of President Johnson’s War on Poverty.
–My analysis at the NYT Economix blog.
–Some of my CBPP colleagues have put together a compelling and readable chart book on the topic.
–My concluding paragraphs:
So, collecting all of these facts, the answer to the question posed above [have we won or lost the war on poverty?] is that it’s the wrong question, in that its inherent win/loss framing precludes a nuanced analysis of the play between many disparate factors. The data clearly show that anti-poverty policies have been effective, but they’ve had to work harder in the face of increasing economic challenges facing low-income families. We could try to push the safety net further, but the politics aren’t there, to say the least. Moreover, unless we do more to deal with the underlying structural problems in the economy that are increasing poverty — especially the lack of decently paying jobs, which I link closely to the absence of full employment — we’ll have to increasingly ratchet up government support year after year.
The American safety net is actively helping millions of economically disadvantaged families, and we should protect and improve it. But the best way to help it — and more importantly, the poor themselves — is to strengthen the underlying economy in ways that will take some of the pressure off of what has, over the last 50 years, become an effective set of anti-poverty social policies.